Teachers from rural communities across Canada got a first-hand look at how new technologies are being used in the classroom during a visit to Lake Vista Elementary School in Martensville last week.
Delegates attending the National Congress on Rural Education (NCRE) in Saskatoon March 25-27 had an opportunity to visit Lake Vista School the morning of Tuesday, March 27.
The two-hour on-site visit provided educators with a chance to see a Grade 5 class participate in a computer coding workshop.
Conference delegates also toured the new school and learned about the close working relationship between the Prairie Spirit School Division (PSSD), which operates Lake Vista School; and the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) division, which operates Ecole Holy Mary School. The two schools, which opened last September, are part of the same building and share some common facilities, including a large central gymnasium.
Coincidental with the NCRE tour, a separate workshop on coding and robotics for Grade 3 students was held at Lake Vista School. The workshop was conducted by Meagen Giannios, an Instructional technology Facilitator with the Saskatoon Industry Education Council (SEIC).
“We had two things going on at the same time, which was pretty cool, not just for the kids, but for the teachers and the visiting educators,” said Lake Vista School Vice-Principal Amy Orth.
“We had about 250 Grade 3 kids from both Lake Vista and Ecole Holy Mary schools go through the SEIC coding and robotics session altogether,” she said. “It was set up in the large gym, and they brought out a team of people and set up different stations with different robots.
“The goal was let the kids experience how coding and robotics works. But it was also to get teachers exposed to these kinds of technologies, and most importantly, how those technologies connect to the curriculum.”
Orth said coding and robotics “does not have to be an add-on or an extra, it can be incorporated into the overall curriculum.”
She noted teachers can access resources from the SEIC to help them set up and conduct workshops.
“Meagen began the year teaching these things at our school, and then she was seconded by the SEIC until next March to do this across the province,” said Orth. “So there was a natural connection for us when she was looking for a school to host a workshop.”
Orth said this was the first year the national NCRE congress has incorporated on-site visits to schools. Martensville was selected because it is close to Saskatoon, and because it offered an opportunity for delegates to see the design and operation of two joint-use schools.
Lake Vista School Grade 5 teacher Jill Paulsen opened up her coding and robotics class to conference delegates, said Orth.
“We were able to go into the classroom and watch the interaction between the students and teacher, and see how the learning took place,” said Orth. “Then we took them on a tour of the school and had a discussion about the pedagogy going on in the classroom.”
Orth said there were several School Community Council representatives among the conference delegates. “It wasn’t just teachers,” she said. “It was a nice mix of community members as well.
“At the end of the day, it was a great way to showcase the school community.”